I had a surprising conversation last week with a young man whom I have known for years. He wrote me an email to let me know that he had recently been baptized. I cannot tell you the joy that exploded in my heart. This is a fellow who has had a strange and encumbered journey to this decision. He has been seeking peace all of his life, but many of his own choices in the past have taken him far afield of anything resembling peace. This decision came after a lot of deep soul searching and some very excellent discipling from a young pastor and a faithful church that has embraced him in his wanderings. I feel like he has finally come home.
This Sunday, we will remember the baptism of Jesus. It may surprise some folks to remember that Jesus was baptized. Since he is the totality of the forgiveness of sins and the One who brought the cleansing needed for new life, it is amazing to think that he himself was baptized by John. What a powerful reminder of the humility it takes to be a servant of God!
Luke 3 (Common English Bible)
21 When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
The Common English Bible version is the first time I have seen the words, ”in you I find happiness.” What a marvelous take on that Scripture! Can you hear God saying that to you in those moments when you choose him over the world? ”In YOU I find happiness.” Hallelujah!
My young friend is working his way through what baptism means. He has expressed doubt that he was ”good enough” to be baptized. Oh, that we could somehow understand that there is no such thing as being ”good enough” to have a relationship with God! You can never be good enough, but the opposite is also true: you can never be ”bad enough” to be disqualified from his grace. Grace means that we are offered the unconditional love and unmerited favor of God, based NOT on our behavior, but on his amazing love for us. Period.
We understand baptism to be an initiation into the household of God. Initiation. That means that baptism is a place where we start our process of growing in Christ, not a place where we present some completed version of ourselves. It is the threshold of a lifelong journey where we study, pray, meditate, serve, and worship in our pursuit of understanding who God is, and whose we are as his children.
So keep growing. Keep learning. Keep praying. Keep striving. Keep putting yourself under the authority of God’s plan for your life, and never stop seeking the peace that he offers. You are God’s child, whom he loves!
In you, God finds happiness.